The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today accused Manmohan Singh led UPA government of helping beleaguered industrialist Vijay Mallya in availing him bank loans for his now-grounded Kingfisher Airlines, a charge rejected by the former Prime Minister.
Citing several letters written by Mallya to both Manmohan and Chidambaram, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that the two had helped the industrialist get huge loans for bailing out the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram rejected the BJP's allegation and asserted that letters from the former liquor baron were only among the hundreds of letters routinely received by the then UPA government.
The Congress instead pointed fingers at the BJP and the Narendra Modi government over waiver of loans to Mallya and his fleeing the country.
"All prime ministers and other ministers in any government, receive representations from various captains of industry which we in normal course, pass on to appropriate authority. This is what I have done and done with full satisfaction that we were not doing anything which was against the law of the land," Manmohan Singh told the media here.
"The letter(s) being talked about, is nothing else but an ordinary piece of letter which any government in my position would have dealt with. It was a routine transaction," he said while reacting to Patra's allegations.
Rebutting Patra's claims that Manmohan Singh had asked his then Principal Secretary to "ensure help" to Mallya, Chidambaram said forwarding letters addressed to the Prime Minister's Office or other ministries to the officer concerned was a routine affair.
Reading out the contents of the letters to the media, Patra claimed a bailout package was given to KFA on "Manmohan Singh's insistence".
He said that Mallya was allowed to procure loans worth Rs 9,000 crore without proper papers or proper accounts.
"Were there certain hidden hands pulling the strings from behind? Was the sinking ship (Congress) helping the sinking airlines (KFA)?," asked Patra.
"We now have certain emails, letters and correspondence that reveal that those hands belong to Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram," said Patra adding that on Manmohan Singh's "insistence" the Income Tax Department "went soft" on Mallya and his accounts were also "unfrozen".
"In letter after letter written to Manmohan Singh, Mallya says he needs the indulgence of the PM and certain funds are released," said Patra.
Pointing to a letter "to Chidambaram", Patra claimed that the industrialist had asked the minister to ensure that the State Bank of India (SBI) grants him a no-objection certificate (NOC) allowing his company United Spirits Limited (USL) to raise over Rs 2,000 crore through issue of shares on a preferential basis.
"The SBI which did not want to indulge with a defaulter called Mallya, was ready to give the NOC to the USL only because it was rebuked by Chidambaram," alleged Patra.
Pointing fingers at the Congress' top leadership, Patra said: "Both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi need to come out in public and declare in whose behest the then Prime Minister and his Finance Minister sanctioned loans to Mallya. They need to come clean on this."
Chidambaram, calling the letters from Mallya a routine affair, said every government recives such requests.
"There is absolutely nothing if anybody says we want some forbearance, we want some policy changes. If a letter to PMO is marked down to the Principal Secretary which is then forwarded to the department concerned, it is normal," said Chidambaram.
"Government, especially the PMO, or the Finance Minister's office etc, receive hundreds of representations everyday. No minister can deal with these representations personally and they are marked down to the officer concerned who take appropriate follow up action.
"Please ask the present government whether they received representations at all in the last three years. If they say they haven't received any representation, that will be serious reflection of the way this government is functioning," added Chidambaram.
"The Congress wants to know who permitted Mallya to escape, who waived loans to him. We want to ask was it not the BJP which voted Mallya and brought him in the Rajya Sabha," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.